The voting system has become a part and parcel of most reality shows (barring a few) and these shows have been in the spotlight since their inception. Be it SET’s Indian Idol or Jhalak Dikhlaja, Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, STAR One’s Nach Baliye or STAR’s Star Voice of India, all have faced some flak over the selection of the final winners.
There have been instances in the past when celebrities were caught by the media buying large numbers of cellphone connections for their fans to vote in their favour. We also saw contestants going on campaigns few years ago, distributing gifts and lobbying for votes. On the other hand, we have sponsors eager to invest and add a certain percentage of the profit to their kitty.
Exchange4media speaks to industry heads to find out whether the voting system is a curse in disguise for genuine talent.
Albert Almeida, Executive Vice-President and Business Head of MAX, favours the voting system. “‘Indian Idol’, which follows the format of all international ‘Idols’ rolled out across 28 countries, is a show that has created tremendous viewer response in the country. It is this interactive format that made the search for an ‘Indian Idol’ a mass movement,” he said.
When asked about the revenues made through their telecom sponsors, Almeida gave a diplomatic answer. “The mobile revenue is only a by-product of a larger picture that contains entertainment and the journey of finding the person who would be our nation’s pride,” he said. According to Almeida, any format that involved and entertained viewers would succeed.
Tarun Mehra, Marketing Head of Zee, denied that TV channels made a lot of money through the voting format. “Television channels do not make much money out of interactivity. The amount generated through this is unequally divided between the broadcast channel, mobile operator and the government,” he said. He added that Zee never restricted their interactivity to one mobile operator as it breached the very empowerment of the voting mechanism.
Ajay Vidyasagar, President of Content and New Media, STAR India Pvt Ltd, is of the opinion that the voting system is the only way to engage millions of people in the show. “Broadcasters do earn a bit through the system, but that’s not the basic objective. The basic objective is interactivity,” he underlined.
Filmy’s Ashutosh recollects traditional techniques of eliciting viewer response. “There is nothing wrong in asking people to vote,” he said, adding that there was a time when popularity had only one currency – post cards – and people used to accept this currency wholeheartedly. “Today, with technology coming of age, SMS has become a potent currency, and this new currency is much more convenient and faster than any other currency,” he added.
Meanwhile, it seems that no channel is in the business of nurturing talent and we can see that the talent development process shaping up as the show goes along. Talking about why the jury isn’t the final decision maker, the business head from Filmy counters by asking why wasn’t the Prime Minister of India elected by only those who had exceptional degrees and who were masterminds in their respective fields? It was democracy, and public opinion mattered, he emphasised.
A voting system can be partial as well as a fool-proof. The numbers are not really important. What matters is the attempt to apply these numbers uniformly to all shows. Since partial voting system allows the jury to intervene in the selection procedure, it poses serious questions on the very existence of the voting system. However, business heads of various channels have a different take. ‘Viewer response is important as it helps in making the show popular’ – they say in complete acquiescence.